41 46 Joseph was 30 years old when he stood in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and passed through all the land of Egypt.
47 During the seven years of abundance, the land produced handfuls. 48 He collected all the food of those seven years in the land of Egypt and placed the food in cities. The food from the fields round each city, he placed within it. 49 Joseph piled up grain like the sand of the sea, exceedingly much, until they ceased counting because it was beyond measuring.
50 Two sons were born to Joseph before the year of famine arrived. Asenath the daughter of Potiphera, priest of On bore sons for him. 51 Joseph called the name of the firstborn Manasseh/He-Who-Makes-Forget, meaning: God has made-me-forget all my hardships, all my father’s house. 52 The name of the second he called Ephraim/Double-Fruit, meaning: God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.
After Joseph’s birth as the firstborn of Rachel, we next hear of him at seventeen (a tattle-tale and recipient of a marvelous tunic). He may not have made it to eighteen before being sold to Egypt. Now Joseph is thirty, a promising age. He already knows how to curry favor with Jacob and goes on to do the same with Potiphar (and wife?), a dungeon warden, royal wine steward, and Pharaoh.
Along the way, his administrative talents have grown to the point where Hebrew people would see him as the practical ruler of mighty Egypt and rescuer of his family in a time of famine. That’s our boy!
At thirty-seven, Joseph is the receiver of more seeds of grain than the grains of sand in the seas. This is a variant on the promise to Abraham that his seed would be more numerous than such sand and the stars in the sky.
Readers can now take their place in the grand debate of people vs. property. Which is stronger? Healthiest? And why?
In the seven years between his interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream and the projected famine, Joseph has shifted the economic base of Egypt from rural to urban and has two sons by Asenath. The first son marks Joseph’s separation from his heritage. He desires to forget past hardships and family. This is assimilation imagery and will make it difficult to be a leader among his tribe should such an opportunity arise.
Given his prestigious appointment by the Pharaoh, why remember being stripped, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery? Why remember those days avoiding Potiphar’s wife? Why remember those years in the dungeon? Won’t his present prosperity be the best banisher of past problems?
Asenath’s second son is named Ephraim, fruitful in this land of affliction, land where he ended after being cast out from his family. Being Top Dog and richer than anyone should remove any lingering memories. Wealth aplenty will show all those who thought they could take advantage of Joseph or bury him in a pit.
Joseph should be feeling pretty good, right about now. Yet these names reveal how tightly the past has a hold on him.